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Five Ways to Spot a Liar

Posted: 16/10/2013 18:27

Many people think they can spot a liar but research shows that most of us are only as good as chance when it comes to detecting whoppers. In my book Would I Lie To You, co-written by Dr Paul Seager, we explore the common mistakes ordinary folk make when it comes to identifying if someone is trying to pool the wool over your eyes. For example, many people think that blink rate or gaze aversion (being unable to look you in the eye) are reliable indicators of deception detection - but in most cases, they are wrong.

Here then are five more dependable ways to spot a liar; these are the cues that are the hardest for a liar to fake (for example, most liars know that gaze avoidance is thought of as a good cue to deception, so make great efforts to keep eye contact when they lie):


1. Inability to tell a story in a non-linear way; this means that they can tell their fake tale from beginning to end, but struggle more if asked to tell it out of sync. Trap them, then, by asking them about bits of the story in a different order and see if they struggle to answer you.

2. Lack of the word 'I'; in false accounts, people tend to drop the possessive and try to distance themselves from their account. The I may become we. For example, 'I went to the pub with some lads - I didn't even speak to a girl!' might indicate more truth than 'we went to the pub - it was just a lads night out'.

3. Use of passive rather than active voice: for example 'Tennis is one of Jane's favourite hobbies' (passive) rather than 'Jane loves playing tennis' (active). Passive tone can indicate that the liar is trying to distance themselves from their shifty tale (as might avoidance of the 'I' word above).

4. Increased repetition of common words and phrases: liars have enough to concentrate on with remembering their lies, so they tend to resort to tried and tested phrases to reduce their 'cognitive load.' Thus, you might find that with increased questioning, they tell their story in exactly the same way; truth tellers are often more able to use variety in their verbal expressions.

5. Mismatch of words with body language: liars might say one thing but their body language or facial expression contradicts them. For example, saying 'yes, I love your new hairstyle' but with folded arms, slight shake of the head, toneless voice etc.

Of course, if it were really this easy, we wouldn't have written a whole book on lie detection, but the above five are a good starting point for any wannabe lie detector. And, if you are the one trying to tell a whopper, now you know what to do.....


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  • 1. Have Gratitude

    "It all starts with counting our blessings. If you are not grateful for the good things in your life, you will never be satisfied. Take inventory of the good around you. But don't neglect what's not great, either: You also need to be grateful for the hardships, the obstacles, the failures. Why? Because these are the points of wisdom in your life. They give you strength, they teach you how to persevere, and they form your resilience. Being thankful for every step makes life’s hardships surmountable. All of this is the foundation of optimism; being psyched about the good and the bad, and knowing that they all point to a bright future."

  • 2. Share Your Stories

    "I believe we all have the capacity to live optimistically just by sharing our life’s adventures, our successes and even our failures. Just knowing others have been in the same boat and have persevered is comforting. It spreads a message of hope, and hope is the main ingredient in optimism. When we share our stories we are giving others the tools they need to build, evolve, and persevere. In essence, mankind is always 'paying it forward.'”

  • 3. Forgive

    "This is easier said than done but you need to forgive those that have affected your ability to find the silver linings. I believe that the easiest way to forgive and move on is to reflect on the fact that the past is the past. Just look at it this way; the person that you are having a hard time forgiving probably wishes that he or she could erase the past as well. In summary, make peace with your past so that it won't spoil the present. Once you accomplish this, you will close those chapters and live a more positive and happy life."

  • 4. Be A Better Listener

    "When you listen you open up your ability to take in more knowledge versus blocking the world with your words or your distracting thoughts. You are also demonstrating confidence and respect for others. Knowledge and confidence is proof that you are secure and positive with yourself thus radiating positive energy."

  • 5. Turn Envy And Jealousy Into Energy

    "When we envy others we are only hurting ourselves. The universe does not owe you because someone else is better off than you. Channel that energy into building your personal and professional brand. Consider other people’s success the catalyst to help you achieve."

  • 6. Smile More, Frown Less

    "When we smile we are creating a happy, stimulating environment around us that draws others in. Frowning, on the other hand, shuts people out and has the opposite effect. Happiness, even in brief doses, releases Serotonin (the happy hormone). It makes the toughest days surmountable."

  • 7. Exercise, Eat A Healthy Diet And Take In Vitamin D

    "This may be common advice, but we all need some form of exercise and sunlight every day even -- if it’s only for 15 minutes. If you can’t get natural sunlight, ask your doctor about Vitamin D supplements and/or light therapy. If you can’t get exercise during your busy schedule, use the staircase instead of the elevator or park in the furthest parking spot. Whatever it takes, keep yourself in healthy motion as often as you can. Consider balanced meals and don’t push away those fruits and vegetables. If you feel hunger throughout the day, consider almonds and walnuts if you are not allergic. If you are predisposed to allergies, consider frequent smaller meals throughout the day instead of three larger ones. The energy we get from exercise, a healthy diet, and light exposure gives us focus, clarity and a naturally positive demeanor."

  • 8. Be A Positive Forward Thinker

    "Positive forward thinking is the ability to find the silver lining in every cloud, apply it to today or yesterday and be hopeful that tomorrow will be better. Imagine surgery; you think the worse and can’t wait for it to be over. Take all that and start visualizing what the point of the surgery is and what the results of the procedure will deliver. The goal is good, it’s only today that may seem rough. Or picture a student studying for a grueling exam. It may seem like the end of the world trying to prepare and memorize all this information. But take that energy and picture what your degree can do for your future. Like anything else, working hard will always deliver results. Life is not a lottery. It’s what you make of it."

  • 9. Stop Blaming Others

    "It is so easy to blame others for our position in life. People blame the economy, politicians, bosses, and all types of third parties for their problems. Once you truly accept that you control who you are, you will find that optimism and success come naturally. Remember, opportunity is usually found in the valleys, not at the peaks."

  • 10. Understand That The Past Is Not A Blueprint For The Future

    "Just because you've experienced adversity in your life does not mean that what starts badly will end badly. Do not make bad experiences a self-fulfilling prophecy of what lies ahead. On the contrary, know that those milestones are behind you and the road to the future is clear."

 

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